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24
January

Maria Tanase is often hailed by Romanians as the Edith Piaf of Romania. Even today her music is still popular and often copied, though she debuted already in 1937 when she represented Romania also at the International Exhibition in Paris, France (together with Constantin Brancusi) and was first aired on radio. Besides her career as singer, Maria was also a film and theatre actress and singer at the opera. But it were her interpretations of Romanian folk songs, which made her unforgotten after her relatively early death.

This article covers two sections: the first with a biography of Maria, the second about her art and music.


Biography: The Life of Maria Tanase

Maria Tanase was born on 25th September of 1913 as third child to Ana (Munteanu) and Ion Coanda Tanase in a suburb of Bucharest, Romania. She inherited from her parents her love to music in general and in particular to Romanian folk music. Maria never received a formal training, but some lessons in her school where she was also mentioned to be on stage, just as at “Cărămidarii de Jos” in 1921.

For a long time, few things have been known about her time during 1939 and 1944, when Romania fell under the dictatorship of Marshall Ion Antonescu and his fascistic, anti-Semitic allies from the “Garda de Fier” (Iron Guard) while Maria and her friends were modern and democratic. Her lover, Armand Calinescu – who made the imprisonment of the fascist leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu happen in 1938 – was murdered by Iron Guardist just one year after, in late 1939. The fascistic Government prohibited airing the songs of Maria Tanase as they accused her to alter “authentic” Romanian folk music. They destroyed also most of the existing recordings of Maria Tanase, yet, some survived. Nevertheless, Maria was still popular and was asked by the very Ministry to sing at a festival. She agreed, but only under the condition that her Jewish friends were not to be deported. Furthermore, she used the occasion to stress the merits of her Jewish friend, the music ethnologist Harry Brauner.

After WW II Maria Tanase continued her career under the now communistic regime and continued to represent Romania and its folk music in various countries. Her journeys included the former communist countries, but she toured often to destinations such as New York, too. She took part in some films, such as “Romania” (1947), acted 1945 in Leo Tolstoy’s play “The Living Corpse” and 1956 in “Horia” by Mihai Davidoglu. She received several honours and prizes for her cultural activity, but soon, Maria Tanase shall die from lung cancer, on 22th of June, 1963 at the age of 49.

The Music of Maria Tanase

When it comes to the art and music of Maria Tanase it seems best fitting to let Maria speak for herself. This for, Romania Central decided to translate an interview originally aired on SRR and available on YouTube.

Maria Tanase:
I was born in the old Caramidarilor suburbs, the suburbs where vegetables, fruit trees and flowers grow. In my father’s garden with apricots scent, with blossomed trees and talkative women, wives of simple hard-working people, with noisy and naughty boys who were covering the hills and gardens. There, in the Caramdarilor suburbs, is the place where I spent my childhood, I cried, I laughed and also there I sang.

Interviewer:
What songs have you interpreted?

Maria Tanase:
Folklore songs, I have never sang anything else besides Romanian folklore songs. Coming from the surroundings and from afar to the town, the peasants hidden in our suburbs, when finishing their work, with voices something full of passion somethings mild, they sang the songs from their homes. From them I have learned to sing, from them, from my father and my mother. For a long time persisted in my soul those sad, slowly, with cursing, revengeful, revolting feelings, wailing and swing songs, wedding songs.

Interviewer:
Your repertoire is very rich, very varied! How do you compose it?

Maria Tanase:
In my journeys along the countryside, I search and listen carefully and patiently the peasants’ songs. Then I try to enter and understand the music, the rhythm and the words’ meaning, mainly to understand the words sense. I try to find the traditions/habits specific to the region, and then the process is quite complicated, being based on observation, concentration and on difficult, thorough and persevering work. I do not interpret them immediately, my songs, collected songs. Primarily, I leave them to sound in my heart, and much later, months or even years later I pass them to the people. Years or months later I run them further on.

Interviewer:
How many songs of this kind you have on your repertoire?

Maria Tanase:
Almost 400.

Interviewer:
And which of them are your favorites?

Maria Tanase:
I have to admit that I have never sung a song that I do not love. But it is true that among them I have a few that are more dearly to me than others. I do not know why. Maybe because they are talking in the warm pace of doinas [a doina is a Romanian song of grief, Romania-Central.com], of the past and difficulties of our peasants and others talk about our days.

Interviewer:
In the last couple of years your repertoire has enriched with many original songs. Where you have collected them from?

Maria Tanase:
From everywhere. From almost all regions that I visit with my song: from Fagaras, Cluj, Radauti, Moldova, Oltenia, Banat.

Interviewer:
Do you want to talk us about your latest folkloric discovery?

Maria Tanase:
More than taking about it, allow me to sing it to you. It is about a swing song, collected by Cicerone Teodeorescu, from Nasaud region that starts like this…
(listen beginning at in the video 4:28).

Translation by Romania-Central.com

Category : Art / Articles / Culture of Romania / Romanian Music

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